Historical Significance or Value
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has high historical significance as the earliest free kindergarten in Auckland. It is closely associated with the trend to provide better community-based care for women and children, which was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New Zealand and other western countries. It has connections to the changing demographic of New Zealand's urban workforce, where women were increasingly employed as factory labour. It is also associated with the training of young women as kindergarten teachers, which is linked to the development of new employment opportunities for perceived 'respectable' women.
The place has value for is linked with changing views on causes and solutions to the problem of poverty, with a new emphasis on education as a means of helping the poor improve their situation. Its park location reflects attitudes about the connections between education and the healthy attributes of fresh air and open spaces.
The place is significant as the first institution established by an important local organisation, the Auckland Kindergarten Association, which continues to run kindergartens in the city to this day. The association had a long and active connection with the building for a period of 50 years. The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has been associated with locally and nationally important people, particularly the Myers family and John Logan Campbell.
The place is also significant for its connections with the history of Freemans Bay, whose change in economic character during the late twentieth century mirrors the transformation of many former slum areas close to the centre of New Zealand's cities. As an institution specifically for the poor, the former Campbell Free Kindergarten is a physical reminder of the changing character of New Zealand cities in the twentieth century.
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has high architectural significance as the earliest purpose-built free kindergarten believed to have been erected in New Zealand. Its Arts and Crafts architectural style can be seen to closely reflect aspects of the educational philosophy behind the building's creation. It is associated with a noted Auckland-based architect, Charles Le Neve Arnold, who was involved in the development of the Arts and Crafts movement in New Zealand.
The distinctive appearance of the kindergarten building provides it with aesthetic streetscape significance, although this is currently compromised by its neglected condition and its location immediately next to a motorway viaduct. The place has some significance for its park setting, although the viaduct has similarly compromised this aspect.
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has social significance for having played an important role in the lives of the children of Freemans Bay and their parents for half a century decade, and for having been subsequently used as club rooms for twenty years. This aspect of significance has diminished more recently due to its neglected state, vacancy, and the changing character of Freemans Bay.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten reflects the development of the kindergarten movement in New Zealand and the wider trend of increased focus on the welfare of women and children, which began in the late nineteenth century. It is also associated with the middle-class view that education could help the poor to improve their lot. It is associated with middle-class benevolence that has been an enduring aspect of New Zealand's history from the early days of European settlement. The place also reflects the changing nature of New Zealand cities over the course of the twentieth century.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The building is associated with persons of importance in New Zealand history, namely John Logan Campbell and Martha Washington Myers. It is associated with adoption of the ideas of German educator Friedrich Froebel, whose radical ideas on fostering child development were embodied in the kindergarten movement in New Zealand.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten and its surrounds offer an insight into the design and use of early childhood educational facilities dating from the early twentieth century.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The building has been the subject of campaigns to save it from demolition, and has been recognised for protection on the Auckland City Council District Plan, Central Area (1997).
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten has strong potential for public education. It is owned by a public body, is located in a public park, and lies within a highly-populated part of central Auckland, on a major thoroughfare.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The design of the former Campbell Free Kindergarten is highly significant as the earliest known example of a purpose-built free kindergarten.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten is a rare surviving example of an early twentieth-century purpose-built kindergarten in Auckland. The Auckland Kindergarten Association had established 28 kindergartens by late 1949 but only five of them were housed in purpose-built buildings. These were the Campbell Free (1910), Myers (Queen Street) (1917), St James (Arch Hill, 1924), Haeata (Sandringham, 1946) and Sunbeams (Eden Terrace, 1938). Of these kindergarten buildings only two (Myers and Campbell) were built prior to 1920. Haeata has been replaced with a new building while Sunbeams appears to have been converted into flats. Both Sunbeams and St James are wooden buildings differing markedly in style from the earlier Campbell and Myers kindergartens.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten forms part of a broader late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century landscape that includes Victoria Park and a group of brick buildings associated with the slums of Freemans Bay. The other buildings in this group include the former Rob Roy Hotel (now Birdcage tavern), Auckland City Destructor Buildings (now Victoria Park Market) and Gas Works Buildings.
The Kindergarten Concept
The kindergarten concept adopted in New Zealand was developed by German educator Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) in the 1830s. Froebel's concepts focused particularly on the education of pre-school children through action or play. They stressed the value of pleasant surroundings, self-activity and physical exercise. His revolutionary ideas to foster child development were taken up with particular enthusiasm in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
From the 1890s, interest in child welfare in New Zealand was accompanied by legislative changes. Tighter restrictions were placed on children's employment, the age of consent was raised, state institutions dealing with children were reorganised and more stringent school attendance regulations were put in place. Charitable and private institutions were also formed, which focussed on scientific child-rearing practices and improving the general condition of women and children. Motherhood was elevated to a greater level of importance. New organisations included the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, formed in 1893, and the Plunket Society, which was founded in 1907. Moves to increase protection for both women and children were part of a wider international movement occurring simultaneously in other western countries.
In a broader social context, there was an increasing emphasis on individual responsibility for moral failing, whereby those at a higher social level often saw the poor as being partly responsible for their situation. During the nineteenth century, benevolent organisations in western societies began to move away from doling out financial assistance for the disadvantaged. Education was increasingly seen as a means of helping the poor to help themselves. It was felt that the poor could be taught to abandon perceived bad habits such as laziness, intoxication and thriftlessness, and thus to improve their lives. The earlier in life that this education began, the more likely it was to have an effect. It was in this context that the Auckland Kindergarten Association was formed in 1908. Kindergartens were seen as a way of resolving a variety of social ills. They were linked to broader notions about the value of education, motherhood, feminism, morality and urban reform.
The Campbell Free Kindergarten
The history of free kindergartens in New Zealand dates back to the nineteenth century. In 1889 a free kindergarten was established in the poorest area of Dunedin. Free kindergartens in the main urban centres followed and, like the one in Dunedin, they were generally located in areas where poverty abounded. The earliest free kindergartens were often held in halls, such as those in the Mission Hall, Whitaker Street (1889), St Peter's Church Hall, Cargill Road (1906), both in Dunedin, and the Mission Hall, Tory Street, Wellington (1906). The Free Kindergarten movement received recognition from the government in 1909, when the Department of Education provided a capitation grant of £2 on the average attendance of children, provided that an equal sum was raised locally.
The Auckland Kindergarten Association was founded in 1908. One of its aims was to set up free kindergartens in particularly disadvantaged areas. Like many other benevolent organisations of the time, it was comprised of middle-class men and women who aimed to improve aspects of the lives of the poorer classes. As historian Margaret Tennant argues, while their sympathy was undoubtedly real, their work also helped delineate their status as respectable middle-class citizens, in contrast to those that they helped. It is worth noting that some of the leading lights in the kindergarten movement in Auckland were closely connected to the brewing trade, in spite of alcohol's perceived detrimental effect on the lives of the poor.
Martha Washington Myers was the driving force behind the establishment of the Auckland Kindergarten Association and the Campbell Free Kindergarten. She was an American who was familiar with successful kindergartens in America and in other parts of New Zealand. Martha was born in New York but later settled in San Francisco, where she graduated from university and worked as a journalist and playwright. She married Leo Myers and left San Francisco for New Zealand, arriving in 1901. Leo joined his brother, Arthur, in the brewing firm Campbell & Ehrenfried, which was partly owned by John Logan Campbell. Martha founded the Auckland Kindergarten Association in 1908 and the Campbell Free Kindergarten two years later. Though Martha Myers and her family left New Zealand in 1912 to live in London, her brother-in-law, Mayor of Auckland and Member of Parliament Arthur Myers, continued to support the Auckland Kindergarten Association. Arthur Myers gifted Myers Park and Myers Kindergarten before leaving New Zealand in 1921. The Campbell Free Kindergarten partly owes its existence to the perseverance and social contacts of Martha Myers.
While Martha Myers was played a pivotal role in the establishment of the kindergarten, another Aucklander enjoyed a key role. John Logan Campbell was a well-known Auckland philanthropist, merchant and politician, who provided funds for the erection and furnishing of the Campbell Free Kindergarten. Campbell was born in Scotland in 1817. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University before leaving for Australia in 1939. He came to New Zealand in 1840 and soon started a business with William Brown. Brown and Campbell became well-known Auckland merchants. During the mid 1850s Campbell served as Provincial Superintendent and Member of Parliament. From the 1870s he became involved in artistic and scientific organizations, as well as serving on the board of several companies. His business interests continued to prosper and he became a generous philanthropist. According to Campbell biographer Russell Stone, it was common for nineteenth-century businessmen to feel a responsibility to return a portion of their wealth to their community. This Campbell did abundantly. He established Auckland's first school of art in 1878 and aided it for a further 11 years. He gifted Cornwall Park to the city and supported many charitable causes including the Auckland Kindergarten Association. While the association between John Logan Campbell and the Campbell Free Kindergarten was brief (Campbell died just two years after the kindergarten was opened), he played a crucial role in creating the building that bears his name.
The Auckland Kindergarten Association was keen to build their first free kindergarten in Freemans Bay. At the time, this inner suburb was amongst the least desirable places to live in Auckland. By the turn of the twentieth century the industrial foreshore area of Freemans Bay was cluttered with sheds, factories and timber stacks. Ill-formed roads quickly became muddy and rutted after rain while factory chimneys belched foul air into the environment. The lower areas of Freemans Bay held many of the poorest homes in Auckland during the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. The Campbell Free Kindergarten was established in Freemans Bay because it was a poor area where early childhood education could have a great impact. The New Zealand Herald reported approvingly of the choice of location:
'In Freeman's Bay district, where so many workers live, and where children too young to attend school are frequently badly environed, the excellent teachings and uplifting aims of the kindergarten will have full scope.'
The Auckland Free Kindergarten Association made the first concrete steps towards the establishment of a kindergarten in Freemans Bay in 1909. A request for a site was made to the Auckland Harbour Board, then owner of an area of reclaimed land bounded by Beaumont, Fanshaw, Halsey and Patterson (now Victoria) Streets. The land had previously been a bay in the Waitemata Harbour, into which material from the construction of the nearby Auckland Gas Company buildings was deposited in the very early 1900s. Much of this ground was leased to the Auckland City Council and formed into Victoria Park, which was opened in December 1905. However, twenty-five allotments fronting Patterson Street were retained by the Auckland Harbour Board for leasing, and several buildings were erected on these allotments. Allotment 23 fronting Patterson Street was subsequently leased to the Auckland Kindergarten Association at a rental of £1 per year. The choice of site fitted into the philosophy of Froebel who believed that children should play in a garden setting.
Meanwhile, fundraising efforts were underway so that a suitable building could be erected and furnished on the new site. By early 1910 the kindergarten began operating from a temporary home in the pavilion at Victoria Park.
In January 1910, the Auckland Kindergarten Association received a letter from Sir John Logan Campbell in which he stated:
'I am informed that you have secured from the Auckland Harbour Board a site adjoining Victoria Park, upon which you desire to erect a building for the purpose of carrying your objects into effect. I do not doubt that the Auckland public would provide your association with the necessary funds but it is most desirable that a good work should not be delayed . . . I have had plans of a kindergarten prepared, which I herewith submit for your approval. The plan is designed to suit the site which your association has obtained, and it now gives me pleasure to ask your permission to defray the costs of the building as a gift from Lady Campbell and myself.'
A design was drawn up by Auckland architect Charles Le Neve Arnold, and soon the building was erected. Arnold had close associations with Campbell as architect to the Cornwall Park Trust Board. The kindergarten was opened on 19 October 1910 by the Mayor of Auckland, Mr L.J. Bagnall at a ceremony attended by Sir John Logan Campbell, members of the Auckland Kindergarten Association and others. The brick building was erected at a cost of around £1500, contrasting with the poor-quality timber houses of the slums that surrounded it. It initially incorporated a main classroom in a single-storey section beside the main street, and a two-storey section containing further rooms behind. It was associated with a small outside playground, bounded with railings on its street frontage. At its opening the building was described as the finest kindergarten in the Southern Hemisphere.
In 1911 the kindergarten held 60 children, both boys and girls, who were aged between three and five years old. They were taught for three hours each day with activities that included singing, playing outdoor games, building model railways, and learning the elementary principles of architecture by experimenting with bricks. Martha Myers wrote:
'Here we help them to love order and cleanliness; to be obedient, courteous and truthful; to be helpful and happy, and to develop little fingers in useful work.'
The Auckland Kindergarten received some government support with a subsidy of £2 per child attending. It not only served as a kindergarten, but was also used as a training centre for kindergarten teachers until 1916. Froebel had advocated the training of professional women kindergarten teachers. The occupation was seen as suitable for respectable single women prior to marriage. It did not challenge the notion that the proper role of women was to act as wives and mothers.
While the Campbell Free Kindergarten was one of a number of free kindergartens in New Zealand, it appears to have been the first one to occupy a building designed and built for this purpose. Previously, kindergartens occupied structures built for other functions, such as public halls. The building was the first free kindergarten in Auckland and was to become one of several free kindergartens established by the association. The kindergarten movement grew rapidly throughout the country and kindergarten education became a common experience in the lives of New Zealand children. By 1929 there were eight free kindergartens under the jurisdiction of the Auckland Kindergarten Association.
Modifications were made to the building in the late 1930s, when a weatherboard sun porch and a storeroom were added to the northern side of the building. These additions improved the ventilation and lighting in the kindergarten as well as providing much needed extra space. The playground was also extended in 1945, when recreational space in Victoria Park was restricted by the presence of an American military camp. The Auckland Kindergarten Association subsequently planned to restore and alter the kindergarten. However, in view of the building's proximity to the planned approaches of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the association instead decided to look for a new site. In 1960, the Campbell Free Kindergarten on Victoria Park was closed and a new kindergarten was opened in Tahuna Street, further south in Freemans Bay. A large motorway viaduct, located a few metres to the west of the Campbell Free Kindergarten, was opened in 1962.
Following the closure of the building as a kindergarten, it was used as clubrooms by the Grafton United Cricket Club and was shared with the Ponsonby Soccer Club for a period. The building was also used as practice rooms for a pipe band. In the 1980s the cricket club vacated the building and it has been neglected since then. An arson attack in 1994 damaged the ground floor wall and ceiling linings.
While the building has deteriorated, the surrounding area has gone through significant changes. Large parts of Freemans Bay were extensively redeveloped in the 1970s and the redevelopment of the lower areas of the suburb continues today. In place of the slums of earlier years, there are now upmarket townhouses, apartment buildings, commercial offices and a supermarket. The Campbell Free Kindergarten represents a rare reminder of the poverty that was so evident in Freemans Bay in earlier years. During the 1990s the future of the Campbell Free Kindergarten was uncertain and the Auckland City Council were considering the demolition of the building. In November 1993 the Auckland Civic Trust wrote a substantial submission to the Auckland City Council arguing that the Campbell Free Kindergarten should be preserved and restored. In 1996 Jim Mason launched a campaign to save the Campbell Free Kindergarten. The building has since been included as a Category B heritage building on the proposed Auckland City District Plan, Central Area (1997).
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten is located in the western part of central Auckland, on low-lying ground that has been reclaimed from the Waitemata Harbour. Facing directly onto Victoria Street West, the building lies on the southern boundary of Victoria Park, with a motorway viaduct overshadowing it immediately to its west and an avenue of mature trees lining Victoria Street to its east. It is one of the few buildings in Victoria Park, which mostly comprises a flat area of open grass. Other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings survive around the southern and western fringes of the park, including the former Rob Roy Hotel (1886, now the Birdcage Tavern) and Auckland City Council Destructor Buildings (1905) in Victoria Street West, and the recently-modified Auckland Gas Company Buildings (1901-1909) in Beaumont Street.
The existing building consists of three main elements: a single-storey structure constructed closest to Victoria Street West, erected in 1910; a two-storey element attached to its rear, erected in the same year; and a later timber structure of the 1930s, erected against the rear (northern) wall of the latter. Decorative iron railings, their concrete base and a central gate front the kindergarten on Victoria Street West, and also date to 1910. Playground surfaces around the building are visible in places, although they have been covered elsewhere by more recent asphalt. The railings and playground surfaces provide evidence of the building's original context and function, and are an integral part of the place.
The brick single-storey front element measures 13 m. by 7.7 m., and has an open porch against its southern wall, which acted as a playground shelter. The porch bears a simple monopitch Marseilles tile roof, supported on simply-decorated columns. A bay next to the porch contained a pair of double hung windows with leadlights, now blocked up, and a hipped Marseilles tile roof at a different pitch to the porch. These two elements combine to provide the street façade with an asymmetrical, domestic-scale appearance. The gable end of the main classroom roof behind incorporates the inscription 'Free Kindergarten' (the word 'Campbell' has been covered over). The informal massing of the single-storey part of the kindergarten, its dominant roofline, the leadlights and the projecting eave brackets show the strong influence of the Arts and Crafts Free Style of architecture.
The larger brick-built, double-storeyed block to the rear (14 m. by 9 m.) is of plain utilitarian design of an industrial/warehouse character common in Freemans Bay when the kindergarten was opened in 1910. Unlike the single-storey front portion, it is orientated with its roof running east-west, and employed different materials, including rendered rather than fair-faced brick and a corrugated iron roof. The 1930s addition to the rear of the building is of timber frame and weatherboard construction with a hipped roof of corrugated iron.
The original layout of the 1910 building incorporated the main classroom in the single-storey front section, accessible from a wide hall entered from the eastern side of the building. The hall also led into a narrower passage in the ground floor of the two-storey section with a secondary room on one side and toilets on the other. A staircase leads up to further spaces upstairs, while the narrower hall was extended during the 1930s to provide access to two storage rooms in the timber addition.
The interior of the 1910 classroom originally featured an Art Nouveau frieze and varnished timber paneling, and ceilings with diagonal battening. The current interior is in poor condition, having been badly damaged by fire. Little original internal fabric and no original finishes are evident, although portions of the staircase balustrades remain. These are of a simple Arts and Crafts design using pierced balustrades with a elongated and stylised flower design. The first floor is structurally unsound and the timber window and door joinery has been removed. Photographs taken at the time the kindergarten was opened show large classrooms generously lit by tall sash windows.
Arts and Crafts Free Style
The former Campbell Free Kindergarten reflects the Arts and Crafts Free Style of architecture. One of the characteristics of the style was that it did not follow the dictates of classical architecture. Where classical elements did appear, they were used in new ways. Architects had the freedom to use asymmetrical planning and combinations of different exterior wall finishes if they were felt to be appropriate. Interiors were restrained and buildings frequently featured touches of Art Nouveau decorative elements.
In Britain and elsewhere, the Arts and Crafts movement was closely linked to egalitarian ideas about society, with socialist campaigners such as William Morris being instrumental in its development. It was seen as a way of integrating art and honest craft into everyday life in an uplifting and moral way. In particular, the style was considered by its proponents to be a 'truthful' form of architecture, unpretentiously expressing function through its materials and straightforward design. It was also linked with an idealised perspective of working class artisans - viewed as 'honest toilers' and the 'deserving poor' - who can be imagined as role models for the children attending kindergartens in slum areas, such as the Campbell Free. Furthermore considered as an antidote to the Industrial Revolution by harking back to a more rural, pre-industrial age, the visual design of the Campbell Free Kindergarten can be seen as a direct reflection of aspects of the educational philosophy behind the building's creation.
Subsequent Free Kindergarten buildings, such as the Rachel Reynolds Kindergarten (1914) in Dunedin, and the Myers Kindergarten (1917) in Auckland, adopted a similar Arts and Crafts style. The Myers Kindergarten is a category II registered historic place (#619).
Addition of weatherboard sun porch and storeroom on northern side of building
Wall and ceiling linings damaged in an arson attack
Single-storey portion: brick, with Marseilles tile roof.
Two-storey portion: rendered brick, with corrugated iron roof.
Northern addition: timber frame and weatherboards, with corrugated iron roof.
30th August 2004
Report Written By
Auckland Institute & Museum
Auckland Institute & Museum
Photographs A55, A158, A159, & A208, Campbell Free Kindergarten 1911
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Stone, R. C. J., 'Campbell, John Logan 1817-1912', W.H. Oliver, (ed.), Vol. I, 1769-1869, Wellington, 1990, pp.67-8; R. C. J. Stone, 'Myers, Arthur Mielziner 1867-1926', Claudia Orange, (ed.), Vol. III, 1901-1920, Auckland, 1996, pp.353-4
H. Downer, 1964. 'Seventy-five Years of Free Kindergartens in New Zealand 1889-1964', Rotorua.
Beryl, Hughes, 'Flags and Building Blocks, Formality and Fun: One Hundred Years of Free Kindergartens in New Zealand', Wellington, 1989
Paul Husbands, 'The People of Freeman's Bay 1880-1914', MA thesis, University of Auckland, 1992
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Land Information New Zealand
B Marshall, 'Jubilee: A History of the Auckland Kindergarten Association', Auckland, 1983
H May, 'The Discovery of Early Childhood', Auckland, 1997
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
24 November 1909; 4 December 1909; 13 January 1910; 26 February 1910; 20 October 1910; and 5 May 1945
Salmond Architects, 2000 (5)
Salmond Architects, 'Former Campbell Free Kindergarten: Heritage Assessment', unpublished draft document, 2000
R. C. J Stone, The Father and his Gift: John Logan Campbell's Later Years, Auckland, 1987
Margaret Tennant, Paupers and Providers: Charitable Aid in New Zealand, Wellington, 1989
University of Auckland
University of Auckland
Sheppard File, A152
Weekly Graphic and NZ Mail
Weekly Graphic & New Zealand Mail
22 November 1911, pp.32-36
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.